As we age, our skin naturally changes. For example, it becomes less oily, less elastic, thinner, and bruises more easily than younger skin. As a result, the elderly may notice changes or issues with their skin that they did not have when they were younger. Some problems are cosmetic, while others may require the assistance of elderly care services.
Common skin issues for the elderly
The most common skin problem is wrinkles, which are one of the most visible signs of aging. They occur when the skin loses its flexibility and elasticity. You may have heard of "laugh lines" or "worry lines" since those are some of the first to appear on the face. Prolonged sun exposure and smoking can both cause wrinkles to form earlier than they might naturally.
Another common elderly skin condition is dry skin. Dry skin occurs more often in the elderly because skin dries and produces less oil as we age. Dry skin doesn't sound too bad but can become problematic if it starts to become itchy. It is easy to absently scratch dry skin until it breaks and bleeds. Elderly skin heals slowly, and cuts or scrapes can quickly become infected. So it is important to keep an eye on dry skin and use an excellent moisturizer to reduce itching.
A third and more serious elderly skin condition is skin cancer. Skin cancer is mainly caused by unprotected exposure to the sun, so avoiding sun exposure is essential to keeping skin healthy. Sun exposure can also cause "age spots" or dark brown spots on the face, hands, and arms. Age spots should frequently be checked for changes that could indicate skin cancer. The National Institute for Aging recommends checking once per month for skin cancer. Using their helpful acronym guide, check the skin once a month for things that may be signs of cancer.
Check Moles, Birthmarks, or Other Parts of the Skin for the "ABCDE's"
A = Asymmetry (one half of the growth looks different from the other half)
B = Borders that are irregular
C = Color changes or more than one color
D = Diameter greater than the size of a pencil eraser
E = Evolving; this means the growth changes in size, shape, symptoms (itching, tenderness), surface (especially bleeding), or shades of color
Elderly Skin Care Tips
Some things you can do to keep elderly skin healthy are:
- Use soap that contains a moisturizer or is formulated for dry skin
- Use a moisturizing cream or lotion. There are hundreds of options, so you can find one that feels good for you and even add it to your self-care routine by choosing a relaxing scent.
- Bathe every other day rather than every day to prevent drying out the skin.
- Drink plenty of water and other fluids.
- Limit caffeine, which dries you out
- Use humidifiers to add moisture to the air
- Avoid sun exposure, especially during the heat of the day, between 10 am and 4 pm
- If you go out in the sun, use sunscreen, wear a hat, and wear loose-fitting clothing that covers as much exposed skin as possible.
While some skin changes in the elderly can be expected, plenty can be done to keep the skin healthy-looking and feeling good as long as possible. If you or a family member needs personal care assistance, Home Instead can help. Our caregivers provide elderly care services that include bathing and grooming assistance in addition to many other daily tasks that give you or your loved one the help they need to live well wherever they call home for years to come.